For the latest issue of Tape Op, producer Mikael “Count” Eldridge wrote an op-ed titled “I Have A Credit Problem.” In it, he laments the loss of the liner note, arguing that today’s information-free delivery systems weaken the listeners’ experience and even hurt careers:
“This is not about stroking the egos of music creators. People need to understand that producers, engineers, and musicians need these credits in order to survive in this business.
We get our work by word of mouth, and without credits, nobody knows the work we’ve done, we don’t get new work, and pretty soon, we don’t have a career.
Companies like Pandora and Spotify get a lot of credit for their achievements. It’s time for them to give credit to the people who made their services even possible.”
Count has started a campaign on Facebook to help spread awareness about this issue, and is now working with NARAS to help develop new standards for digital album credits. But until those new protocols come together, there are several easy steps you can take to help make sure proper credits are available anytime your music is played.
The first is simple. There’s a “comments” section available for almost all popular files types where you can add notes to all of the tracks you make available for download. There are even free standalone programs like MP3Tag that work across multiple formats.
These systems have their limitations, and that’s what Count wants to improve. But they’re also vastly underutilized, especially on independent releases. This is somewhere you can make a difference instantly. If any of this sounds new to you, there’s a good chance that you or your record label aren’t using the currently available fields to their full potential.
For iTunes users, there are other options. Although iTunes inexplicably cuts off the “comments” field after an brief 255 character limit, the program does allow over 24,000 characters in the woefully underutilized “Lyrics” pane, so this a great place to add the text of your liner notes (in addition to your lyrics.)
As a fairly new feature, all iTunes releases can also include a “Digital Booklet.” These are PDF files, 4 pages or longer, that you create yourself. Once submitted to Apple, they are linked to your albums whenever your listeners download them. Other audio players have yet to catch up and integrate digital booklets into their platforms, but this innovation already heralds the eventual return of the liner note.
If you’re releasing your music through other outlets, whether it be Bandcamp or Amazon or anywhere else, you always have the option of designing engaging digital booklets for each of your albums and making them available on your own website. I’d recommend giving these away as a free perk, asking only for your listener’s email address in return.
Ed: As a side note, far too few of today’s musicians are giving their fans great incentives to join their email lists. Even when compared to social media, email newsletters are still one of the most effective tools for turning casual fans into the kinds of fans that can help fund your career.
Some day soon, it’s likely that all popular audio players will be able to draw on MPEG-7 data or something like it, and you will be able to associate any number of new information fields with each of your songs. But in the meantime, the best options we have are the comments field, the lyrics field and the digital booklet.
So please, start filling these fields in if you haven’t already, and be as creative as you want. If you’ve discovered a novel way of sharing complete liner notes with your fans, tell us about it, and we’ll cover your strategy, your notes and artwork in an upcoming issue of TMimaS.
As soon as listeners realize they’re missing out on your complete artwork, lyrics, story, and even the basic information about who you are, how you got here, and who helped you out along the way, distributors are more likely to feel the pressure and began bringing these fields to their customers.
At best, including credits, photos, histories, and impassioned manifestos will add another dimension to your fans’ experience. At worst, it might just help bring some welcome security your own career, and to the careers of the people who have helped you most.